Questions are being raised on the Maharashtra government’s seriousness in dealing with the drought situation in the state. At present, Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code is being applied in parts of the state where people gather to fill water. Water fights, which have led to at least one death in the parched Marathwada region at present, are not new anymore. At such times, the state government has given permission to IPL matches in the state and has been providing cheap potable water to the liquor industry in Marathwada. These moves have come under fire from not just activists, but from the judiciary too. The flourishing business of water parks across many parts of the state has also been going on unabated.
“You can’t act as a mute spectator,” the Bombay High Court told the Maharashtra government this week, while observing that the waste of lakhs of litres of water on maintaining cricket pitches was “criminal” at a time when the state is reeling under severe drought. “Was there any application of mind?” it asked the government, while questioning how it did not realise this while granting permission to IPL.
“You (state) are dealing with people at large.... animals have died, cattle have died, people are dying and you want to maintain pitches and grounds?” the court had observed, slamming the state government. Initially, the state government tried to shrug off its responsibility. It told the court that the use of groundwater came under the purview of the water regulatory authority, and that the state government did not have any say in that. But the court slammed the state’s attitude and remarked, “You are the government. You have control over corporations and each of your departments. You can direct them,” it said.
The court also gave the Maharashtra government time till next week to make submissions about the contingency plans in dealing with the water shortage. It asked if the government intended to import water from other states in view of such a serious condition.
Though the Chief Minister has said that he will not provide potable water for the games and he doesn’t mind if IPL goes out of the state, he missed a very important point. The IPL organisers (BCCI) have already told the Bombay High Court on record that they do not use potable water for the maintenance of pitches. The municipal corporation, too, has told the court that it only provides water for drinking purpose to the stadium.
At a time when all parties have clearly denied using potable water for maintaining the pitches, the Chief Minister’s statement regarding it is redundant.
Meanwhile, in Marathwada, the state government has been providing potable water to the beer-making industry at Rs 16 per 1,000 litres. This happens at a time when Marathwada is reeling under severe drought, water fights are a common sight and cattle have died due to shortage of water.
The main raw material for beer-making is water. To make one litre of beer, at least four litres of potable water are used. The beer industry in the Aurangabad belt produces at least two crore beer bottles in a month, local media reports have claimed. Every day, the industry uses a whopping 40 lakh litres of water. In view of the drought situation, the state government had implemented 10% water cut to the industries last year. The water cut continues this year too, but the usage of potable water for the beer industry has raised many eyebrows in Marathwada. The state government has also been providing water to the water-guzzling sugar mills.
Even the water parks, water sports parks and amusement parks with water rides have been flourishing in the state. Many water parks in western Maharashtra’s Pune district have been flourishing in the scorching heat. Advertisements for Holi bookings, rain dance, water sports have been continuing.